The Sabres’ winning streak had to end at some point, but an unceremonious comeback loss at the hands of a division rival probably isn’t what they had in mind. Dreadful officiating aside (and it was really dreadful), Buffalo was outmatched by Tampa Bay’s speed as they allowed the Lightning to claw back from a third period deficit to win 5-4.
Dan Giradri got the scoring started less than three minutes into the first period, jamming home a rebound on the right side of the net to put his team up 1-0.
The Sabres wasted little time evening things up at 8:42 when Zemgus Girgensons potted his second goal of the season. Rasmus Ristolainen let a shot rip from the point which Girgensons deflected in front of the net to tie the contest at 1-1.
Just over a minute later, Sam Reinhart capitalized on a beautiful backhand pass from Jack Eichel to give Buffalo their first lead of the game. Lightning netminder, Louis Domingue made the initial stop, but the puck bounced off of his blocker and floated over his shoulder and into the net.
That lead would be short lived as Alex Killorn notched his fourth of the season just 43 seconds after Reinhart’s go-ahead goal. Carter Hutton was drawn way out of the crease as a few of his teammates were caught spectating, which allowed Killorn a prime opportunity at a wide open net.
At 15:55 Nikita Kucherov would regain the lead, putting his squad up 3-2 heading into the first intermission. The Sabres got caught on a 3-on-1 as Rasmus Dahlin tried to pinch the puck along the boards in the offensive zone, leaving Zach Bogosian as the only man back. Kucherov then fired an absolute snipe over Hutton’s right shoulder.
Buffalo was quick to respond in the second period. At 5:39 Reinhart scored his second tally of the evening, and the only goal in the middle frame. After a beautiful zone-entry, Eichel drifted a shot toward the front of the Lightning cage, which deflected off of Reinhart’s skate and in.
Things were looking up at the start of the third period. At 2:29 Tage Thompson scored his fourth goal of the season (all of which have come over the last six games), delivering another gorgeous, pinpoint shot thanks to some nice work in deep from Casey Mittelstadt.
On Tampa Bay’s fifth power-play opportunity of the evening, Steven Stamkos tied things up at 4-4, registering his eighth goal of the season. Following the initial faceoff win from Brayden Point, Stamkos received a pass from the blue line which he fired home from the left face-off dot.
At 14:19 Cedric Pacquette would score the game-winner, going top shelf after receiving a nifty back-pass from Mikhail Sergachev. The Sabres would pull Hutton with just over two minutes left in regulation, but failed to sustain pressure as their 10-game winning streak came to an end.
Being out-shot 37-22 is never a good formula for success and given how shaky Domingue looked from the start of the game, it’s a shame that the Sabres were unable to generate more opportunities. Another big deciding factor was an officiating crew that allowed the Lightning to get away with pretty much everything. Buffalo was given two opportunities with the man-advantage, but that number could have (and probably should have) been tripled.
The team will try to get back to their winning ways tomorrow night as they take on a Florida Panthers team that currently sits at the bottom of the Atlantic Division. Puck drop is at 7:00PM.
Final: Sabres 4, Lightning 5
Shots on Goal: Sabres 22 | Lightning 37
Sabres Goals: Zemgus Girgensons (2), Sam Reinhart (4,5), and Tage Thompson (4)
Lightning Goals: Dan Girardi (2), Alex Killorn (4), Nikita Kucherov (10), Steven Stamkos (8), and Cedric Pacquette (5)
Three Stars of the Game
1. Nikita Kucherov (1G, 1A)
2. Alex Killorn (1G, 1A)
3. Sam Reinhart (2 G)